Rome, Italy, Nov 10, 2014 / 17:03 pm
The latest round of major appointments to top positions in the Vatican hierarchy shows that change is afoot as Pope Francis puts his stamp on the Roman Curia.
But the transitions are clearly designed to bring about a change of mentality more than a simple restructuring of Vatican departments.
On Nov. 8, Pope Francis carried out a series of appointments that look to be a prelude to the complete reshaping of the curia.
The Pope has named British Archbishop Paul Gallagher at the Vatican's secretary for Relations with States, replacing French Moroccan Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.
Archbishop Mamberti, in turn, moves to the Church's highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, where American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is outgoing to the Order of Malta.
Each move reveals more about Pope Francis' vision for the Church.
A change in diplomacy
Archbishop Gallagher's appointment as "Secretary for Relations with States" signals that a new diplomatic course is underway with Pope Francis.
Gallagher is a long-standing diplomat, who has served in the nunciature of the Council of Europe and as the papal ambassador, or nuncio, to Burundi and Guatemala. Most recently he was serving as nuncio to Australia. He is considered an astute, open-minded and humble worker.
He has also been chosen because of his ability to fulfill the new diplomatic criteria: Church diplomats under Pope Francis are being urged to reduce the distance between themselves and mainstream society, engaging the secular world more in conversation.
A member of the Pope's diplomatic corps told CNA Nov. 9 that they have been asked "to seek to understand situations and try to adapt to them in order to bring the light of the Gospel to them."
Sources say Archbishop Gallagher was the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin's first choice for the position as his second-in-command.
His appointment comes at a crucial moment in the Vatican, as the new Cardinal George Pell-led Secretariat for the Economy and the Secretariat of State are defining their reciprocal competencies.
By the end of this month, a meeting of the heads of Vatican departments with Pope Francis will likely give a final shape to the Curia reform that, among other things, led to the creation of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Sources maintain that the agenda of the meeting does not include an open discussion. They expect the unveiling of the plan for streamlining the Roman Curia, which would go into effect after the next meeting of the Council of Cardinals, scheduled for Dec. 9-11.
A change in court
Archbishop Dominique Mamberti was moved from his post as the Secretary for the Relations with States to the Apostolic Signatura, often called the Church's "supreme court."
Archbishop Mamberti was appointed as "foreign minister" post in 2006. He was one of the first picks of the Secretariat led by former Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
The archbishop was widely expected to be transferred to a new post under Cardinal Parolin's leadership. The Apostolic Signatura is a soft exit.
Mamberti arrives to the position as the Vatican reexamines the steps that lead to decisions on marriage annulments. In August of this year, Pope Francis established a commission to propose procedural simplifications, while also safeguarding the principle of the indissolubility of matrimony.
In a Nov. 5 meeting with canon lawyers, Pope Francis said some procedures are currently so long and financially burdensome that people "give up."
In his new position, Archbishop Mamberti will be in charge – among other competencies – of final appeals for cases of marriage annulments as well as cases of conflict of competencies among Vatican dicasteries.
Sources say that appeals for nullity have increased in recent years and that Pope Francis wanted a prefect of his own appointment to decide them.
The position at the head of the highest of the Vatican's courts traditionally merits the "berretta rossa," the red hat of the cardinal. Archbishop Mamberti will be expected to made cardinal in the next consistory.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, 66, has been made the patron of the Order of Malta, an honorific charge which is usually assigned to cardinals who are at the end of their ecclesiastical career.
Over the course of the first year-and-a-half of this pontificate, Cardinal Burke has voiced his concern with some of the choices being made in Church governance. Nevertheless, as an active cardinal living in Rome, his capacity to opine will remain the same if not greater – since no significant office will be attached to him.
Right after the conclusion of October's Synod of Bishops, he granted an interview to the Spanish Catholic weekly "Vida Nueva," saying that during the synod "many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a rudder."
Cardinal Burke responded that Vida Nueva, a left-of-center media outlet, had "gravely distorted" his statements.
His appointment to the Order of Malta is not a surprise. The cardinal himself publicly stated he had been informed of it. His appointment to the Order of Malta is the latest in a gradual distancing from the life of the curia.
Pope Francis is looking for a softer approach to applying Church law from the Apostolic Signatura, and he thinks he's found that in Archbishop Mamberti.
Another round of appointments are expected soon in the Vatican, all intended to reshape the Church's 'top management' to fit with Pope Francis' vision for a mission to the world with more emphasis on attraction to the Gospel.